Researchers at the University of Guadalajara, in Mexico, have discovered that fruit compounds taken from the blue-agave plant used to make tequila can be employed as an effective method of delivering drugs to the colon. This development is important for the treatment of colon diseases because physicians have been struggling to find a drug carrier that can withstand stomach acids and deliver medications to the intestine, where they are metabolized.
It has been known for many years that the blue-agave plant contains a polysaccharide known as fructan, a polymer of fructose. The compound is not hydrolyzed in acidic environments, such as the upper digestive tract, and it’s therefore able to reach the intestine fully intact. Other plants, such as the chicory, the Jerusalem artichoke, and the dandelion, also contain fructan, but unlike the blue agave, they are unable to produce the large amount of fructan needed to create an effective drug carrier.
To form a drug carrier, the researchers had to chemically modify the extracted fructans to make them nonsoluble in water. They also had to design microspheres of the compound that could encapsulate the drug. To test their method, the researchers filled the microspheres with ibuprofen and exposed them to hydrochloric acid for an hour.
Their laboratory results, presented at the 233rd national meeting of the American Chemical Society, showed the drug to be undamaged. But the group plans to continue working on the design of the microspheres. Within the next year it will be testing the effectiveness of the release of the compounds under the conditions that prevail in the colon. Then the group will move on to animal trials and even further clinical trials.